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August 4, 2005

Review: City School and the American Dream

Carole Gupton reviewed Pedro Noguera’s City School and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education:

Title: City School and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education
Author: Pedro Noguera
Copyright 2003
Publisher: Teachers College Press

Pedro Noguera brings both skepticism and optimism to what many consider as blight on the vision of the American Dream—educating all of its children. He offers hope for the future of city schools while telling it like it is and pushing for an answer to the same issue Ron Edmonds identified in his Effective Schools research in the 1970’s. Does American society truly value all of its children? Noguera’s work is influenced by Paulo Freire and encourages a move away from “fatalistic perspectives that lead individuals to accept and adapt to oppressive circumstances, and calls for the adoption of a critical stance toward the adoption of relations of power. Such a change in thought requires critical reflection, engagement and practice to counter the continuing acceptance of oppression and use of deficit models of education.

Noguera uses his research of three cities in California along with his own experience as an educator and school board member to ferret disparities in thought and services related to students of color and in poverty. Key to his philosophy is to understand that there are differing opinions on the role of culture in supporting students of color. Noguera’s research supports that of James Banks, Ladson-Billings, Nieto and others who suggest that high performing students of color are more likely to be successful in the attending schools that support and affirm their racial and cultural identities – and deliberately incorporate the culture of their students into the curriculum and pedagogy. He opposes the idea that some researchers advance that “minorities must assimilate and conform to the dominant culture, and place the onus for accommodation on students” it is important to understand the process through which racial identities are constructed in school in order to devise strategies that focus on strengths rather than on deficits. It is important to reflect on these two approaches as I think it has much to do with the current data that indicates high middle class students of color in non urban schools still do less well then their white counterparts. Perhaps this discrepancy is not one of ability but of the extra effort required to both achieve and assimilate with in the structural culture of a white school.

City Schools and the American Dream offers a great deal on which to reflect. Central to our reflection is this statement in the conclusion of the book. ”We have the resources, the know-how, and the models to do this. What is lacking is the will and the conviction to make it happen.”

Posted by ula at 6:15 PM